Douglas County youth encouraged to take part in political process

Douglas County youths can make some political noise by attending a Rock the Vote concert Wednesday at Liberty Hall.

Students will have the opportunity to meet politicians, learn about the election process and vote in advance through the Kids Voting program. Then, to help celebrate democracy, the New Amsterdams, an internationally known rock band, will perform along with rapper Approach and dj sku.

The first-time event, which will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., is part of the Wednesdays at Liberty Hall after-school program and is open to students in seventh through 12th grades. It is sponsored by Kids Voting Douglas County.

"We really wanted to design some activities that would appeal to junior high and high school students and also let them learn about the election process," said Margaret Perkins-McGuinness, manager of Roger Hill Volunteer Center and an organizer of the event. "This was a cool way to get kids together and engage them with their elected officials and also have a great time."

Tim vonHolten, a member of the Kids Voting Douglas County committee and an event organizer, encourages students to attend and let their voices be heard.

"This is their chance to let candidates know what kind of attitudes and thoughts exist in an age group that will soon be of voting age," vonHolten said.

Rachel Keller and Sue Schwartz, both juniors at Lawrence High School, agree.

Past Event

Rock the Vote in the DG

  • Wednesday, October 25, 2006, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Liberty Hall Cinema, 644 Massachussets Street, Lawrence
  • All ages / Free

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They have participated in Kids Voting since elementary school and plan to vote Nov. 7.

Keller, a member of Young Democrats, said it is important for youths to vote because "we elect a government that represents the people."

Schwartz, a member of LHS Republicans, said the election makes her think about her views and then provides an outlet for them.

They were among approximately 2,300 Douglas County students, grades K-12, who voted in 2004. Lawrence had the third-highest turnout in the state, coming behind Wichita and Topeka. About 230,000 youths participated statewide.

Emily Bradbury, executive director of Kids Voting Kansas, said Lawrence has one of the best programs in Kansas.

"They (Lawrence) have been around since 1992 - the beginning," Bradbury said. "They have been one of our best programs, so we are really proud of them. They are our shining star."

There are 55 communities involved in Kids Voting Kansas, which began in 1992 as part of a national pilot project involving 10 states. The program is now active in 40 states. Kansas has the second largest program in the country, second only to Arizona, where the program was founded.

"The purpose (of Kids Voting) is to teach young people at earlier ages how to be reasonable citizens by exercising their democratic voting rights and paying attention to the news and candidates and issues," said Ruthi Rapp, Kids Voting Douglas County committee member. "And to learn an appreciation for the fact that they have that privilege, which doesn't exist in some countries around the world."

And the program is working. Since implementing Kids Voting Kansas, the state has seen an average of 60 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds vote in Kids Voting communities compared with the national average of 10 to 15 percent.

"We get them in there and get them voting as soon as possible ... so when they turn 18, they are going to know the process and the issues and know how to get the information about them to cast an informed vote," Bradbury said.

There will be 67 official polling sites open in Douglas County where students can vote alongside their adult counterparts on election day Nov. 7. Kids Voting tables staffed by more than 400 volunteers from the community will make it possible for youths to vote before and after school until the polls close at 7 p.m.

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